CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed a lawsuit filed against a company that operates three rent-to-own businesses in the state that have been practicing what he calls aggressive collection tactics.
The lawsuit was filed in Raleigh Circuit Court last month against Howard Rents LLC, doing business as Aaron's in Beckley, Ripley and Summersville.
The lawsuit claims Howard Rents violated the state's consumer protection laws.
"With this lawsuit, we hope to stop this company and any others from engaging in what our complaint alleges is coercive and unconscionable conduct," Morrisey said. "This action should serve as a warning to others that our office will vigorously work to protect West Virginians against any violation of the state’s consumer protection laws."
The lawsuit claims in the course of collecting on alleged past due accounts, the defendant engaged in conduct that it knew or should have known may cause consumers to suffer harm to their reputation, shame, embarrassment, ridicule, disgrace, oppression, abuse or wrongful interference with their right to be free from intrusion upon their solitude or seclusion in their private affairs, which violated the West Virginia Consumer Goods Rental Protection Act.
The suit claims the defendant routinely made unwarranted telephone calls to third parties, such as family members and persons listed as references, and made in-person visits to customers at their homes and places of employment to coerce payment of alleged debts.
"The defendant has rebuffed all reasonable efforts by the Attorney General to secure a formal enforceable promise of future compliance, which has necessitated the filing of this lawsuit by the Attorney General to obtain permanent injunctive and other related relief," the suit states.
In one incident, a customer employed at Tudor's in Fayette County alleged the company’s collection employees came to her workplace when she became delinquent on her account and owed $66. Once there, the Aaron's employees allegedly refused to leave unless she made a payment and did so in front of her coworkers, managers and customers.
After repeatedly asking them to leave, the defendant’s employees finally did. However, yet another employee then called the restaurant asking to speak with her. Despite her fellow employees and supervisors asking him to stop calling, the employee phoned another three times.
Morrisey is seeking a court order to restrain the defendant from engaging in similarly coercive behavior with customers in the future. Senior Assistant Attorney General Norman Googel and Assistant Attorney General Michelle Bradley of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection/Antitrust Division are handling the case.
The Attorney General's office also seeks restitution for all consumers who may have been aggrieved by the defendant's unlawful practices.
Raleigh Circuit Court case number 19-C-252